Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Conceptions of art: A case study of elementary teachers, a principal, and an art teacher

Kathy A Miraglia, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This qualitative case study investigated elementary teachers' concepts of art, their anxieties associated with art practices, and a principal's decision making concerning art in the curriculum. Two in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 participants to determine their knowledge base, family and educational backgrounds, conceptions of art, and the relationship with the art teacher. Observations of classroom art activities were carried out over a period of six months and recorded in a field log. Visual images in the school building were analyzed for content. Data were analyzed through open and pattern coding. Through axial coding, clusters of data were organized by commonalities and patterns arranged around the axis category of teachers' conception of art. Through the metaphor of "The Medium of Water" representing teachers' understanding of art, six themes were developed explaining the results of this study: (1) Skimming the Surface of the Water---describes classroom teachers' inadequate backgrounds. A lack of exposure, education, and familiarity connected to art knowledge was linked to how art was superficially conceptualized and valued. (2) Wading in the Shallows---describes classroom teachers' shallow conceptions of art. (3) A Choice Not to Dive---describes manifestations of classroom teachers' conceptions of art and implementation of art. Images displayed within classrooms and corridors were found to be predominately commercially adult-generated and/or student-generated from the art curriculum. (4) Fear of the Water---describes anxieties associated with the teaching and making of art. Anxious participants did not consider themselves artistic and used less art in their classrooms. (5) Unable to Take the Plunge---describes a knowledgeable principal's indecision. While being knowledgeable and sympathetic to art, she was unable to make a case for an art-inclusive program, and (6) Drowning in Responsibilities---describes an overwhelmed art teacher. Her isolation contributed to an inability to collaborate with other teachers and responsibility to integrate fell mostly to her. Her teaching objectives and values did not match with classroom teachers'. All participants' concerns were coping with curricular pressures, high-stakes testing, and lack of time in the schedule. Because of these issues, art was not a priority in this school's curriculum.

Subject Area

Art education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Miraglia, Kathy A, "Conceptions of art: A case study of elementary teachers, a principal, and an art teacher" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242105.